SWRI keeping fingers crossed on third rocket launch

First two attempts resulted in failure

SAN ANTONIO – The folks at Southwest Research Institute hope the third time is the charm when it comes to rocket launches.

A rocket carrying a specialized camera developed at the institute, with the help of a Japanese organization, will hopefully blast off and reach the International Space Station.

The camera is designed to be mounted on a platform that will allow it to take pictures and video of meteors before they make it to the earth's atmosphere.

"This camera actually has diffraction gratings which allow us to do something, a big word, visible spectroscopy," meteor payload developer Michael Fortenberry said. "It is like having little bitty prisms that take the incoming light and split it into wave lengths."

The idea is to learn the makeup of the meteors.

"When we can figure out some of elements that are in the meteors," Fortenberry said.

The challenge is to get the camera to the space station because the first two tries ended in the rockets exploding.

The crew will then have to mount the camera near the window. The space is there, but it's a matter of getting it all hooked up correctly. Something that's not very easy when you're dealing with people in space.

"They have a whole procedure and a whole way of producing procedures," Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry had to write installation instructions and label each part with a name.

"Each cable has a tag in the middle and then a tag at each end to tell the crew where to connect it," Fortenberry said.

The camera looks like one that sold at an electronics store, although there are some upgrades that make it very sophisticated.

After the crew gets it set up, it will be operated from the ground, which will allow Fortenberry and his colleagues to learn more about the universe.

"It is important because it tells you something about the universe and the way everything was created," Fortenberry said.

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